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Australian Government To Widen Spy Agency Powers, Again 105

Posted by timothy
from the we-know-what's-best-for-you dept.
An anonymous reader writes "It seems the Australian Government has a fondness for expanding the powers of the domestic spy agency, ASIO, be it for hacking into servers or tapping citizens' phones. Now the plan is to make it easier to engage in economic and industrial espionage, as well as on groups such as WikiLeaks."
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Australian Government To Widen Spy Agency Powers, Again

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  • Apparently "ni hao" means "G'day"
  • by LongearedBat (1665481) on Thursday May 19, 2011 @11:17PM (#36187856)
    ...the list of risks would be too long and fairly obvious about allowing an "agency almost unfettered discretion to determine when and how <any agency>'s powers may be used to gather information about people's activities".
    • by errandum (2014454) on Thursday May 19, 2011 @11:44PM (#36187974)

      But... Don't they already do this everywhere?

      It's just that here there is a law saying that they can, but it is already done in almost every civilized country...

      • I guess, to a degree, because spy agencies seem to see themselves as above the law.
        But still think that most people in law enforcement do respect the laws that they're trying to enforce.

        That difference in attitude is why spy agencies really should have clear limitations that should be enforced, somehow.

        • by rtb61 (674572)

          Let's be honest these changes to the law are more likely to do with http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pine_Gap [wikipedia.org] and as a 'er' partnership, the uses and abuses the US put it to, also drag in the Australia government.

          Perhaps the US is taking a step back from 'for profit' contractor intelligence which tends to fulfill the need of generating more profit for the contractor than having anything to do with the truth, to seeking aligned intelligence partnerships.

          Of course there is also, how exactly do you word keepi

  • by Mr Bubble (14652) on Thursday May 19, 2011 @11:17PM (#36187858)

    To a man with a hammer, everything looks like a nail.

    Police and intelligence agencies are tasked with a mission. Like ever other profession, they want to get better and better at what they do. They will always push for more weapons, more power and more of a role in our society. It seems like they won't be satisfied until we all live in glass houses - everyone, that is, except them. I am a fairly optimistic person about the future, but this is one of the issues I don't see a way out of because the only antidote is an engaged citizenry that peacefully, but persistently pushes back and that demands their rights. Unfortunately, the citizenry is half asleep on their couches watching cop shows.

    • by c0lo (1497653)

      Unfortunately, the citizenry is half asleep on their couches watching cop shows.

      Having to pay mortgage at a 7.8% rate is tiresome.

      • And agreeing to pay most of your income to your bank for 20 years is stupid.

        • by xMrFishx (1956084)
          On the other hand, renting for 20 years gives you what at the end of it? I see open market renting similarly to setting your money on fire.
          • Somewhere to live for 20 years plus the difference between the mortgage payment amount for the value of the property and the rent amount times 20 years of interest accrued in your favour.

            People taking loans over such long terms pay over 90% the value of the property in interest. i.e. even when they 'own' the house, they've paid twice it's market value after the bank has taken their slice.

            If you have the discipline to save for what you buy, you can get a much, much better deal. Especially if you are willin

            • So I live somewhere small for 25 years saving my money, so when I'm 50 I can buy a family house and have some kids?

              Genius.

              You ever thought maybe all of those people getting mortgages aren't as stupid as you think they are?
              • ... or just move to a place with an extra bedroom when you start planning for your kids - it's not like you have to find a buyer. You don't need to own the new place either.

                Whatever - if you think the difference between owning the building or just living in it is worth the price, pay it.

                • Depends where you live. In a lot of countries tenants have a lot of rights, but in England where I live you can be forced to move with about 6 months notice.

                  Your maths is wrong anway. On a mortgage I am likely to pay back about 165% of what I borrow. However my payments are not subject to inflation so effectively the costs come down every year. If you rent you get a small saving (not even true in the case of the UK) each month at the beginning but your rent carries on going up at the rate of inflation.
                  • by WorBlux (1751716)
                    And mortgage payments can count as deduction on your income taxes whereas rent does not.
                    • by suutar (1860506)
                      the interest portion can; as I understand it, the principal cannot. But I rent, so I could be mistaken.
            • by AJH16 (940784)

              Hmm, so if I can put $850 a month in to renting or $850 a month into paying a mortgage, you are saying putting the $850 into rent is better how? I'm giving my $850 away as opposed to getting something back for it (even if it is only $400 after the bank takes their share). How exactly does your understanding of economics work?

              • by xMrFishx (1956084)
                That's pretty much my take too. I've also noticed that renting, especially on your own means you really can't save for the deposit for a house.
              • by suutar (1860506)
                nah. He's saying 700/mo rent + 150/mo savings is better than 850/mo mortgage. Which I would extend to saying 700/mo rent + 250/mo savings is better than 850/mo mortgage + 100/mo property taxes + 50/mo repair bills that the landlord would handle for a renter - 50/mo for the tax deduction for mortgage interest.
                • by AJH16 (940784)

                  At that point you are really kind of comparing apples and oranges. If the housing market was such that it was more expensive for equivalent properties to buy than it was to rent after factoring in how much interest goes to the bank, then yes, renting would be better, but in my experience I've never found a situation where that is the case. Basically your total housing cost - whatever principal your paying towards the house needs to be higher than the cost of renting an identical property for renting to be

                  • by doccus (2020662)
                    Buy a very cheap place.. one *well* within your means.. to hell with the 'dream' home.. once you have established any equity you can trade up and you'll eventually get your 'dream home' ..or you can do like lower middle america and get one you can barely afford.. if your lucky enough to keep it you'll have paid double what it would ever haver been worth.. if you get a *good* deal on your mortgage !
            • by WorBlux (1751716)
              If you move around alot or don't like the risk of footing repair bills renting is just fine. However if you plan to be in one place for twenty years you might as well just buy the house. Either way a big chunk of your payment will be for someone putting a chunk of money into the structure 15-30 years before they could see a return on all of the money. When you rent you just pay the interest on that investment to the landlord rather than the back, and you have literally nothing to show for it. Either way you
        • by drsmithy (35869)

          And agreeing to pay most of your income to your bank for 20 years is stupid.

          As opposed to paying it to a landlord (who, given Australia's current state of property "investment" is just giving it to the bank anyway) ?

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Wolfling1 (1808594)
      We already have far less rights than the Australian population knows. They generally tend to believe that they have the same rights as Americans. We have no Miranda (sp?). We have no right to our homes. Australia has no concept of an illegal search or seizure. Evidence cannot be excluded for these kinds of reasons.

      The weakness of our constitution is part of the problem. The 'man in the street' (or man on the couch) wouldn't have to be so active if we had a half decent constitution. This doesn't mea
      • by dakameleon (1126377) on Friday May 20, 2011 @12:44AM (#36188282)

        We already have far less rights than the Australian population knows. They generally tend to believe that they have the same rights as Americans. We have no Miranda (sp?). We have no right to our homes. Australia has no concept of an illegal search or seizure. Evidence cannot be excluded for these kinds of reasons.

        I would have hoped that you declared your self to not be a lawyer. I'm not a lawyer myself, but Australian legal rights aren't so far gone as all that. If the police are questioning you with the intent of using the information as evidence in court, they do warn you along the same lines as the Miranda rights. (in any case, Miranda was more about the fact of police having to inform about rights than the rights themselves.) You get two calls - one to family or a friend, and another to a lawyer. I don't know where you get the no-right-to-our-homes, and there's certainly a concept of illegal search, seizure and inadmissable illegally obtained evidence. Where do you get these stories from?

        The weakness of our constitution is part of the problem. The 'man in the street' (or man on the couch) wouldn't have to be so active if we had a half decent constitution. This doesn't mean that we can all sit on our collective backsides and do nothing. It means that there would be more opportunity for civil libertarians to challenge stupid laws.

        We might not have a Bill of Rights enshrined in the constitution, but we have 800 years of common law to draw on, given the courts recognise British court decisions as being relevant to Australian laws. Many of the rights you cry poor over have been ruled on in past legal cases.

        Let's face it. Most of us don't really know much about politics and the law. And most of us don't have the will to fight these battles. The purpose of a constitution is to protect the rights of the folks who are less capable of protecting their own.

        The purpose of a constitution is to give a framework for laws to hang on; the fact that Americans have enshrined certain laws in their constitution above and beyond the simple amendment of a vote in parliament is admirable, but a fetishistic obsession with a constitution does not make for easily enshrined laws. No-one expects that the ordinary person on the street would be able to understand all the relevant laws - lawyers have jobs for a reason, and to argue that laws should be simple enough to be understood by everyone is disingenuous in this day and age.

        • by fredmosby (545378)

          No-one expects that the ordinary person on the street would be able to understand all the relevant laws - lawyers have jobs for a reason, and to argue that laws should be simple enough to be understood by everyone is disingenuous in this day and age.

          How can you expect someone to follow the law if they don't understand the law?

          • I'm not suggesting that people do not understand basic laws, or laws simplified and explained by experts, but the intricacies of law in the modern context is such that it's not readily available to the common person. That doesn't preclude lawful behaviour; did someone sit you down and explain all the laws in the country when you were 10 years old, at which point you started to be culpable for your actions? at 17, when you could potentially be tried as an adult? About the only circumstance in which that actu

            • I'm not suggesting that people do not understand basic laws, or laws simplified and explained by experts, but the intricacies of law in the modern context is such that it's not readily available to the common person. That doesn't preclude lawful behaviour; did someone sit you down and explain all the laws in the country when you were 10 years old, at which point you started to be culpable for your actions? at 17, when you could potentially be tried as an adult? About the only circumstance in which that actually happens is road laws.

              Case in point: do you understand the difference between battery & assault? Is there one? What constitutes aggravated assault, and what is the limits of self defence? what of the degrees of murder, or the difference between that and manslaughter? without being a lawyer, the best I (or, I suspect, you) can offer is the explanation distilled by the media that you've read somewhere. That doesn't mean you don't understand actions which are illegal without understanding the legal code that forms the basis for prosecution.

              It appears you are contradicting yourself there. For example, if you don't understand what the limits of self defence are how then can you then understand if a potential action is legal or not?

              How can you expect someone to follow the law if they don't understand the law?

              You have made some interesting points but you really haven't answered the question.

              • How can you expect someone to follow the law if they don't understand the law?

                You have made some interesting points but you really haven't answered the question.

                You're misunderstanding my point. I don't expect people to understand the intricacies of the law; I expect that people will be able to follow a simplified explanation provided by experts, but that should not preclude laws which are more complicated, reflecting the complexity of modern life. It's analogous to saying how can people use computers, or cars, or $technology, without understanding how it works?

                The fact is that people by and large follow laws without being handed a book detailing all of them is pro

        • by MikeRT (947531)

          We might not have a Bill of Rights enshrined in the constitution, but we have 800 years of common law to draw on, given the courts recognise British court decisions as being relevant to Australian laws. Many of the rights you cry poor over have been ruled on in past legal cases.

          The reason our Bill of Rights works fairly well is that it actually enshrined certain common law traditions into an immutable system that Congress cannot legally override--ever. We have a problem of judicial overreach in overriding C

        • by Mjec (666932)

          I am not a lawyer, but I am just about to finish law school, so should be in the next eighteen months at the outside, in Australia no less. But you still shouldn't trust me ;).

          If the police are questioning you with the intent of using the information as evidence in court, they do warn you along the same lines as the Miranda rights. (in any case, Miranda was more about the fact of police having to inform about rights than the rights themselves.) You get two calls - one to family or a friend, and another to a lawyer. I don't know where you get the no-right-to-our-homes, and there's certainly a concept of illegal search, seizure and inadmissable illegally obtained evidence.

          All true. The problem is none of these rights are constitutional. Whereas the government can never take away these rights in the US, thanks to the 4th amendment, they can be removed in Australia. All that's needed is for Parliament to pass a law. As we know, when it comes to law-and-order stuff, that's stupidly easy. All that's protec

        • by rdnetto (955205)

          We might not have a Bill of Rights enshrined in the constitution, but we have 800 years of common law to draw on, given the courts recognise British court decisions as being relevant to Australian laws. Many of the rights you cry poor over have been ruled on in past legal cases.

          I am an Australian law student (not a lawyer), and you're missing something very important: precedence. Legislation is superior to common law, and the constitution to legislation. It doesn't matter if there's a long line of cases supporting a right that was affirmed by the High Court, if an act says that right goes out the window, it's gone. Additionally, English cases do not form binding precedent - it's a the judges' discretion as to whether we should adopt English law or diverge from it.

          In Victoria (and

      • We have a right to silence from English Common Law. We have no enshrined freedom of speech. We do have a concept of illegal search and seizure (ASIO and the AFP have been involved in a number of procedural gaffes).

        Outside of legislation, we have common law. The problem with these common law 'rights' is that applying them is a matter of finding precedent. This relies on a diligent judiciary or it breeds inconsistency. With no overarching documents in some areas, there is no central point of reference and som

      • by drinkypoo (153816)

        We already have far less rights than the Australian population knows. They generally tend to believe that they have the same rights as Americans. We have no Miranda (sp?). We have no right to our homes. Australia has no concept of an illegal search or seizure. Evidence cannot be excluded for these kinds of reasons.

        Uh, we have no concept of an illegal search or seizure already. We have had rulings both that evidence found during an illegal search is admissible, and that the police may enter your domicile to conduct a search if they "have reason to believe" that you are hiding evidence. In other words, if they don't think you can afford a good lawyer.

      • The americans don't have a strong constitution (anymore) either so you're not alone.
  • What?? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by c0lo (1497653) on Thursday May 19, 2011 @11:18PM (#36187862)
    TFA

    They will widen ASIO's ability to work with and on behalf of the overseas agencies in collecting what is known as ''foreign intelligence''.

    Collecting data about Australian citizen's on behalf of overseas agencies?

    • It's going to happen anyway; why not play the middleman, make a profit, and get to keep records of what they know? It's a win-win for everyone but the, um, well, citizenry. But who cares about them, right?
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      For quite a while now, western countries' spy services have been spying on other western countries' citizens. The data is then traded so that each country's intelligence agency ends up with domestic intelligence data for their own country, while skirting "stop spying on your own citizens so much you assholes" regulations. I am not making this up.

    • Running an international intelligence agency is very expensive. You can get better intelligence for the same amount of money, if you share all your stuff with your allies, and they share their stuff with you.

    • - contradiction in terms

    • by TBBle (72184)

      TFA

      They will widen ASIO's ability to work with and on behalf of the overseas agencies in collecting what is known as ''foreign intelligence''.

      Collecting data about Australian citizen's on behalf of overseas agencies?

      From earlier in TFA:

      According to the Attorney-General, Robert McClelland, the changes are being made to allow ASIO to work better with Australia's two overseas spy agencies, the Australian Secret Intelligence Service and the Defence Signals Directorate.

      So they mean "Australia's overseas spy agencies" not "spy agencies overseas from Australia". Specifically, they seem to be talking about giving the Attorney General more room in allowing domestic collection by ASIO of intelligence relating to foreign activities for use by and at the request of ASIS and DSD.

      I haven't read TFBill though.

  • by SirAstral (1349985) on Thursday May 19, 2011 @11:19PM (#36187864)

    You won't feel a thing!

    I no longer feel empathy for enslaved populations. I sit here in the great U.S. of A. and see my fellow citizens taking this shit lying down and begging for more. Worse yet as I try to rally my fellow citizens to try to stop this they all look at me like I am crazy. And when I tell them stories when good ole gubmint oversteps they just look at me like I am stupid, even when I provide them with links from reputable sources. They just say... ah there is more to the story they are not telling you.

    Australia can just go and suck it long and hard, but tell them to leave some room at the feet of their masters, my people with be joining them all too soon!

    • Spain, as I type, is in the midst of a full scale citizens (peaceful) uprising [youtube.com]. Protests across the country, 10,000+ people just in one of the main squares, many sleeping there overnight only to have 10K+ more people there the next day (now going on two to three days like this) - all of this has eclipsed the polished marketing election campaigns of the two main political parties (PSOE and PP). The message is simple: Vote for who you like in elections this Sunday, but NOT for the two dominating parties - wit

  • In fact, hello.jpg is an apt metaphor for the gov'ts attitude towards the citizenry.

  • by ausrob (864993) on Thursday May 19, 2011 @11:51PM (#36188006)
    Unforturnately this is nothing new for Australia, and will continue to be the case because Australians are generally quite apathetic when it comes to governance. Generally, it takes an astonishing act to garner much public outrage, which means Australia is a prime location for testing certain legislative prerogatives. The problem (amongst other things) is that it sometimes sets a very bad precedent, internationally. Once such powers are granted in one country, it is often used to justify the granting of similar powers in other countries. This can also apply to copyright, tax (e.g. GST in Australia influenced by the success of the Canadian sales tax model) and much more.
    • [quote]Australians are generally quite apathetic when it comes to governance[/quote] I disagree, that's why we had a hung Parliament, and a 3rd party holds a considerable amount of power now. We aren't as stuck in a 2 party system like America, if we don't like something actually important we tend to vote it out. Our longest serving prime minister got voted out of his own electorate because he was pushing unpopular legislation. there are regular protests but they just get ignored by our politicians, the on
    • by dakameleon (1126377) on Friday May 20, 2011 @12:52AM (#36188318)

      You say the tax example as though Australia was amongst the early movers in applying a GST, or that sales taxes are rare enough elsewhere in the world. Hell, NZ had a GST before we did, and it had been proposed nearly 10 years prior by John Hewson. The GST replaced a series of different state sales taxes, harmonising tax arrangements around the country but shifting a huge chunk of power to Canberra through the payment redistribution system that causes such consternation at each COAG meeting.

      Furthermore, copyright is bound mostly by international treaties; between the updates to the Bern treaty and our FTA with the US effectively importing the DMCA, our copyright law is no more "inspired" by others than our adherence to the Geneva convention.

      • by ausrob (864993)
        No, I meant that introduction of GST in Australia was heavily influenced by tax reform made in other countries such as Canada and New Zealand (a basis for a precedent perhaps). As for copyright, you are correct - treaties such as the ACTA are the main mechanism for changes, and through others, such as the free trade agreement signed between the US and Australia a few years ago. However, those provisions relating to copyright are a heavy subset of those contained within the DMCA - which is US domestic poli
  • I'm not worried, As it will be used to spy on foreign corporations and people of interest, not domestic.

    there is a risk of irritating the wrong country though. I'm sure Pakistan wouldn't like it if co-ordinates an attacks a nuclear facility somewhere in Pakistan "to ensure economic growth".

    Attacking a website like wiki leaks though I'd definantly be against. removing foreign journalist websites because it "said something bad about us" is REALLY BAD form. Although I think that might have just specula
  • The last major terrorism incident in Australia was in 1978, and that one is generally attributed to Australia's own security forces. In 1986, somebody tried a bombing, and blew themselves up. There have been some foreign bombings in Indonesia that killed Australians. That's it. There is no significant terrorism problem.

    As for external attack, Australia is an island, has a respectable army, navy and air force, and nobody has attacked since WWII.

    What, exactly, justifies stringent security measures?

    • by bane2571 (1024309)
      I'd expect pre-empting any beliggerance from China would be a big motivator. Indonesia are also a growing nation that could become a risk.
      • by Geminii (954348)
        China has fifty times Australia's population. Indonesia has ten times. If either of them feel like invading, all they have to do is keep swarming over the border until we run out of shrimp and barbies to throw at them.
    • by pbjones (315127)

      there have already been a couple of groups caught planning attacks in Oz, or did you not read/hear the news?.

    • by AHuxley (892839)
      The only thing Australia fears is the loss of the NSA pipe and "boondoggle" export deals for US mil hardware and software.
      For that we will say anything, vote, spy on or back any war. We can listen deep into Asia and the Pacific but lack the cash for any real ongoing "Australia alone" crypto race.
      Its win win, the US and UK get a location to spy from, we get to share. With that comes the stringent security measures and a deep Australian understanding of US private contractors lobbying in the US.
      Australi
    • by mudgee (2181352)

      Obviously it is Australia's fervent commitment to ignoring our rights that have prevented rampant acts of terrorism for lo, these many years.

      Besides, our native fauna is deterrent enough for any would-be foreign trouble makers.

      In short, we have no rights, but our spiders, snakes, octopus and jellyfish kick arse!

    • Well, they definitely need to keep the farming of shrimp protected, lest there be none to cook on the outdoor coal-based grill.

      There's also the ongoing propaganda war in Europe and the US, pushing Castlemain XXXX and Fosters as exotic imported beverages from the other side of the planet, instead of the chilled "used water" it really is.

      Mate.
    • by skegg (666571)

      What, exactly, justifies stringent security measures?

      Well to be fair, about 3 - 4 Australians die every year from terrorism.
      Oops, scratch that: I meant 3 - 4 Australians die every year from peanut allergies [allergy.org.nz].

      Annual deaths due to terrorism: 0

      ( Yes, I remember the Bali bombings. How about we annualise those figures. )

  • i wonder if these legislative changes will mean the spooks will let outsourcers touch their gear. they'll now have the ability to look far more closley inside the large US corps.

  • I notice one of the stories linked under the summary, about phone tapping, has a comment by Slashdot contributor Julian Assange

    http://yro.slashdot.org/story/02/09/16/0344221/Australia-Taps-More-Phones-Than-Entire-US [slashdot.org]

  • by Anonymous Coward

    The Los Angeles Police Department, the FBI and the CIA were debating which of them was best at apprehending criminals.

    President Obama decided to put them to the test. He released a white rabbit in a forest outside Washington and set each agency the task of trying to catch it.

    The CIA went in and placed animal informants throughout the forest. It conducted extensive interrogation of plant and animal witnesses and after three months investigation, concluded the rabbit didn't exist.

    The FBI went in. After two we

  • In Australia, there seems to be two competing opposite ways of naming things. Either you go for totally nonsensical names, like wombat and the like, or you pick a very boring descriptive name.

    See a brown snake in a tree? Name it "Brown tree snake". A green frog in a stream? - "Green stream frog". Spy agency in Australia? - "Australian Spy Agency".

    It was fun imagining Steve Irwin making the names of animals up as he went along. May he rest in peace.

  • You are guilty till proven innocent.

  • With all the Muslims, escaping from their ever so peaceful motherland in Indonesia, Australia will also have a bunch of relgious freaks now that will look for ways to hurt Australia. Setting fire to bush and woods has happened in the USA and Canada too.

The bomb will never go off. I speak as an expert in explosives. -- Admiral William Leahy, U.S. Atomic Bomb Project

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